Google is reportedly close to releasing a refreshed Google Product Search service leveraging the technology it acquired from Like.com, which it picked up in August.
Like.com makes a visual search engine that helps consumers match clothes and other apparel online and purchase them from retailers.
It's part comparison shopping site and part fashion consultant. Google said after the deal:
"While Like.com will operate its Websites separately in the near term, we're excited about the technology they've built and the domain expertise they'll bring to Google as we continue to work on building great e-commerce experiences for our users, advertisers and partners."
Why would Google do this? The Wall Street Journal, which said Google could add Like.com capabilities to Product Search as soon as this year, said (paywall) Google desires to "become a key player in a market dominated by sites like Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc."
Good luck with that, especially trying to launch smack dab in the middle of a holiday season. Trying to vie for share versus Amazon is like trying to tackle Facebook from miles away in social, or like trying to launch a music service to compete with Apple iTunes.
At least if Google succeeds in grabbing ITA Software, it will commandeer the travel information space, which is why members of the travel info industry that stand to lose out from this are upset about it.
Still, there's no question this sort of e-commerce is a multibillion-dollar industry -- WSJ says $140 billion -- so Google obviously believes just a taste of that will suffice.
And why not? If Google gets its serendipitous search engine to fly in the next couple of years, it's not a stretch to think that people walking by storefronts will get beamed side-by-side results from Google Product Search using the image-recognition technology from Like.com.
These results would be paired with inventory info from within participating stores (Google Places members) to show prospective shoppers available merchandise, along with size and color information about what the shops have in stock.
Suppose there is one specific skirt on sale left from a store and Google has beamed the item to a few women shoppers in the area?
Ideally, there would be opportunities down the road via Google Checkout or PayPal for the shoppers to buy the garment from their mobile phone with a couple clicks from the street, then walk in and pick it up.
I can't think of a more powerful shopping experience, and that would certainly beckon more users to Google Product Search, but I'm probably musing on something that is a ways off in the future.
Vendors haven't quite got the whole shop-and-buy-from-a-mobile-phone-with-a-couple-of-clicks thing down yet.
Facebook Deals looks promising though. ... Increasingly, all roads point back to that big social network. Didn't Google used to be that place?